Monday, June 24, 2013

toronto food fest 2013 - eater edition

This past Sunday, I got to play two very different foodie roles at the same event. First, Paul and I attended the media preview hour of the 2nd annual Toronto Food Fest (what this post is about) and then I slipped behind the SmashCake booth to see what life was like as a food vendor at an event (which I'll write about in an upcoming post).

Some of the tasty treats available: (clockwise from top left) lemon meringue cupcakes from Bakin' Bits; vanilla and smashed smarties cupcakes from SmashCake; macarons from Francesca Bakery and gourmet sandwich from Bricks and Mortar
Some of the amazing reasons to attend the Toronto Food Fest:
  • takes place on a Sunday afternoon so the whole family can enjoy together
  • located in the suburbs, so there's lots of free parking
  • a great mix of new vendors, pop-up shops and established businesses
  • it's FREE to attend (that's right, FREE)
The event was split into two areas - indoor and outdoors. It was a beautiful, sunny day (although seriously HOT), so after taking a quick walk-around the indoor area we headed outside to visit those vendors first.

There were lots of great vendors set up outside, including:

Clockwise from top left: Dutch Frites, Sopsop, Liko's Hawaiian BBQ and Buster's Sea Cove
Two of the outside vendors were on my "must-say-hi-to list": How 'Bout Those Meatballs and Kanga.

I was introduced to How 'Bout Those Meatballs (@HBTMeatballs) after they tweeted me and told me I should stop by to try their #ballsofcheesygoodness. Paul makes pretty great meatballs himself, so I let him choose what we ate here, as he would be the judge.

We tried the spicy meatball (the "Spicy Sammy Sandwich" - $5), which comes on ciabatta bread, topped with a lightly-dressed salad. The meatball had a nice consistency, wasn't too hard, was very flavourful and you could tell it was homemade in the best way. The spiciness was added by the sauce (which was really good) and blended well with the meatball and salad. I wasn't sure about a salad in my meatball sandwich (I like it meat and bread!!) but this totally worked. Definitely worth the price and a great way to kick off the food festival.

p.s. I didn't get to see this in person, but I've been told the crazy crew at HBT Meatballs were dancing the day away and holding a dance contest (for bottles of olive oil) in the 35C degree weather. Now, THAT'S dedication and energy!

My friend Dave, from Goat Roti Chronicles told me that I had to try Kanga's meat pies (Kanga was previously known as Meat Pie Mates) and I didn't really need that much convincing. You may not know this, but I love meat pies. LOVE THEM. There's something about meat and pastry that really makes me happy. (Don't even get me started about the pasties we found in London!).

Kanga (@EatKanga) had three types of pies available - Traditional Aussie, Butter Chicken and Creamy Zucchini. Even though I was tempted by the Butter Chicken, I opted for the traditional Aussie pie, which was a mixture of beef and potatoes. For $7, you got a sizeable meat pie and no utensils. As Erynn, one-half of Kanga told me "You eat Aussie meat pies with your hands!" She also asked me if I liked ketchup. Um, yeah I do! Then she showed me how they add ketchup to the meat pie. They inject it. What? Can this meat pie get any better?

Yeah, actually it can - when it went in my mouth. This was one amazing meat pie. Everything fit really well together and the pastry was top-notch. I could eat these every day. It was hearty and filling (and luckily, Paul and I shared one because there was so much else to be eaten).

Erynn of Kanga, injecting my traditional Aussie meat pie with ketchup
At this point, Paul  were both already really hot, so we cooled down with a $2 Hibiscus Iced Green Tea from Bricks & Mortar (nice and refreshing) and decided to head in.

Once inside, we sampled flash frozen mini marshmallows (they exploded with a light pop and was nice and cold) and watched the wizards from Ice Cream Volcano (@icecreamvolcano) in action, making ice cream with liquid nitrogen (it's like Harry Potter, but with a KitchenAid!)

Then we headed to Me.N.u. Food Truck (not really a food truck, at least not yet!). I couldn't miss this one!

I've known Allen (@MenuFoodTruck) for about a year now, following him online as he globetrotted around the world, documenting his travels and learning all about food as he moves towards his dream of starting an food truck. He's ambitious, smart, curious and loads of fun. The Toronto Food Fest was his first-ever pop-up event so I was excited to finally try his creations. (I was actually supposed to get a sneak peek taste of his food a few weeks ago, but things happened - stuff got burned, then dropped on the floor...we try not to think about it).

Two of my favourite food guys! Allen of Me.N.u. Food Truck (left) and Mark of HotBunzz
Allen offered two types of crispy rice balls ($3 for one or $5 for two) - one was stuffed with Korean short rib and pulled brisket and the other was filled with char siu (one of Paul's favourite things) and lap cheong (Chinese sausage - one of my favourite things). Guess which one we chose?

The rice ball was really crispy on the outside, not greasy at all and the inside was an intense burst of filling and flavour. There was a lot going on inside, but it all combined together into one nice mouthful. So worth the wait! Glad we got there early too, as Allen sold out halfway through the event!

After that, the event was officially starting, so Paul left and I slipped behind the SmashCake booth to get to work (more on that in the next post!)

During the rest of the day, I nibbled on a chickpea slider from Urban Acorn Catering, drank a mojito lemonade (I didn't catch the booth's name as they didn't have a sign and Paul couldn't remember it), tried world-famous cold milk tea from Marathon Donuts & Coffee and my life was saved by the most refreshing Marrakesh Mint Chocolate Iced Tea from Laura Slack Chocolate (@LauraSlackChoc) (you may know them from their stunning chocolate skull truffles). This iced tea (and I'm slightly biased here because it really was a life-saver) sounds like a mouthful, but you actually taste all the flavours in the name - it was minty and chocolatey without being overpowering. I wasn't surprised when they sold out fairly early in the day.

Thanks to Shannon from All Mine Caramel, I also got to sample some chocolate and caramel goodness. I've been chatting with Shannon (@allminecaramel) on Twitter for ages, but we always seemed to miss each other at events. I'm actually kind of glad I don't see Shannon more often - her sweets are a serious temptation! Caramel popcorn anyone?

The Toronto Food Fest is now a must-attend event for me. There was so much going on that I was sad my wallet and stomach couldn't take it all in. I can't wait for next year!

The only thing that would have made the day better was maybe a a few more drink vendors (45 minute wait for lemonade!) and a vendor map (if not for everyone, how about just for the media then?). Also, many of the vendors weren't ready for the "media hour" so when we arrived, no one was set up and I didn't get as many food photos as I wanted to. By the time some of the vendors I wanted to visit were ready, there were already line-ups with the general public so I couldn't try everything I wanted to (but that's more my fault since I had to get to work!).

To check out more of my photos from the Toronto Food Fest, please visit my Flickr set!

Me and my iPhone, in blogger mode

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